Many people will come forth to give you advice before you enter the world of motherhood for the first time. They will tell you things like, “Travel now,” and “Sleep while you can.” If you’re lucky like me, they will even warn you about the added company you’ll have in the bathroom or the significant decrease in shower time. You’ll be told that wearing yoga pants and a ponytail are perfectly acceptable on any given day now that you’re on your way to mommyville. Spit-up on silk. Need I say more?
But the one thing you should hear, probably the most important, is that you will lose yourself.
You’re so busy worrying about onesies and buying diapers in bulk that you probably won’t think much now about how you’re going to fare on the other side. Not that thinking ahead will necessarily change the outcome — a woman can never truly know the type of woman she will be until after she becomes a mother. It changes you. It empowers you, yes. But it also silently detracts some of the most integral pieces of you. Some of the pieces that defined you previously, that is.
You will forget who you were. You will lose rank on your own totem pole. Instead of being first, you’ll subconsciously float down to third or fourth or fifth. How many kids do you plan to have? Take that number and add yourself in at the end. You will come last from now on.
It won’t even be noticeable at first. You’ll be too distracted with feeding and burping and Baby Einstein. On the worst of the worst days, you will simply praise yourself for surviving. You’ll tout on Facebook that you’re off to have a copious amount of alcohol and relax after your long day, when in reality you’ll probably end up asleep on the couch watching reruns of Real Housewives of New Jersey. Then when you wake up in a pool of your own drool, you’ll wipe off your chin and fall into bed. Your brain will be too fuzzy to worry about the pedicure you planned to give yourself that night or the book that you wanted to catch up on.
You will love your kids with everything you have and more. You will exhaust yourself with ten-thousand rounds of peek-a-boo and when they’re older, “Choo-choo.” When you do take a chance and dress up for the day, you will end up regretting that you did. And if you somehow make it through that day unscathed, don’t expect a repeat for the next. Luck like that is damn near impossible to repeat. You will be happy and content with your family. You will feel pride when your children reach the next milestone in their journey.
One day you will find yourself pacing back and forth with an inconsolable baby. You will be humming and rocking and, eventually, exasperated. Without a doubt, this is the moment that you will catch sight of yourself in a mirror. You’ll realize that this is the first time you’ve really looked at yourself in awhile — I mean, really looked, not simply slapping on some makeup through zombie eyes every morning. In that moment, you will not recognize that woman. The woman with spit-up all over her shirt. The woman with slightly frazzled hair. With enormous nursing boobs (if you’re nursing, that is), a softer middle than you can reconcile with, and a heavy heart. The eyes will say it all. Every little thing that cannot be or has not been said about this experience thus far. It will be there staring back at you.
The saving grace will be that beautiful, amazing, how-the-hell-did-I get-so-lucky child in your arms.
But there’s hope, dear friend.
Slowly and with time, you will begin to pick up bits and pieces from the old you on the way to the new you. The kids will get a little older, a little more independent, and eventually they’ll give up nursing entirely. With the end of nursing will come more freedom. Freedom to have copious amounts of alcohol (if desired), to go out on dates again with your husband, or have girls’ nights without having to worry that your two-hour window is waning. The spit-up phase will end too, providing the opportunity once more to dress with reckless abandon. And with a little work and a bit of patience, you will reshape and tone and feel pride in your body once more. After all, it was the vessel that grew and carried your little ones into the world. That is certainly something to be proud of.
Of course, the constant in all of these variables in motherhood will be your children. They will be the reason you get up every morning and the light of your life. They will be motivation to pick yourself back up every time that you stumble or fall. And even on the worst of the worst days (because there will always be challenges ahead), they will be in the small group of people who you simply can’t imagine and wouldn’t want to live without.
Take heart, sweet mama. You’ll find yourself again, and this version of you will be the best yet.